Before 4 p.m. cars can park in front of the establishment; after that, parking is located behind the shopping strip. Live entertainment on Tuesday nights and free wireless Internet draw people to this intriguing café. The fact that their staff is beyond friendly and their portions are more Texas-sized than those of any other restaurant in the Village should also help draw more people from the Rice community this year. Opening at 11 a.m. for lunch Monday through Saturday, it is a welcome change from barbeque, Tex-Mex and Thai. Soft reggae and essences of irie riddims gently serenade entering customers, while the smells of amazing dishes encircle them.
For appetizers, the Reggae Hut Café has a great selection. The beef, chicken and vegetarian patties are pockets of flaky, crispy bread filled with choice ground meat and spices, making a light but filling snack. The Cocoa Bread, a Caribbean specialty, is a soft, warm, buttery loaf. The café really outdoes itself, however, with its fried plantains. Sliced a massive half-inch thick and lightly fried, they retain their soft, squishy centers and rich plantain flavor.
The main courses are all culinary delights. Served at all times of the day, the menu is divided into seafood entrées and non-seafood entrées. On the seafood menu, the chefs offer curry, jerk and garlic shrimp, as well as brown and curry snapper. The yellow curry is not the sweet, creamy curry offered in Indian restaurants, but a spicy, slightly salty sauce in which the jumbo shrimp and snapper are simmered.
The specialty of the Reggae Hut Café is definitely their Jerk Shrimp. The Jerk Shrimp are perfectly boiled, plump specimens that grace the plate with a homemade jerk seasoning bursting with freshly ground allspice, scotch bonnet peppers, cloves, cinnamon, scallions, garlic, nutmeg and thyme. The jerk is not overpoweringly peppered. It retains its flavor without needlessly scalding mouths and burning eyes. After the kick, it opens into a sweet secondary phase, which is characteristic of good Jamaican jerks. Seamlessly flowing into the soft rice and the zesty vegetable medley, the jerk provides a balance on the plate.
Non-seafood dishes include Oxtail Stew, meaty ox tailbones in a heavy brown gravy stew; Brown Stew Chicken, savory chicken in the same brown stew; and Jerk Chicken Salad, grilled jerk chicken on a bed of freshly cut lettuce.
Diners can wash down meals with numerous Caribbean beverages, although they should beware the ginger beer, which packs a real wallop. The non-alcoholic beverage is infused with fresh ginger and can burn more than it refreshes. To get a real taste of the Caribbean, customers should try the Sorrell drink, made from the fruit of a Roselle plant, or the Caribbean Kolas: Cream Soda, Kola or Pineapple.
Looking for a delicious and different home-style meal just a few minutes from Rice University campus? Definitely give this place a try. On a side note, the owner of the Reggae Hut Café also owns the Breakfast Klub, and is another new addition to the Rice HedgeHopper program.
Pros: It's A Legit Jamacian Restaurant, Huge Shrimp
Cons: Parking, Can Go Overboard on the Pepper